Can the Rockets defeat the Thunder without Russell Westbrook?

Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Houston Rockets Russell Westbrook (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /
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Houston Rockets
Oklahoma City Thunder Chris Paul (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

Talent Comparison

Talent is one area where the Rockets have a definite edge. This is not to say that the Thunder lack talent, however. With players like former Rocket Chris Paul, young stud Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, and a knock-down shooting power forward in Danilo Gallinari, the Thunder are not short of talented players. Four of their five starters are averaging double digits in scoring.

But the Rockets have many equally talented players, and one massively talented player in James Harden. None of the Thunder’s players are on the level of Harden, giving the Rockets the best player in the series.

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The Thunder also only have adequate answers defensively for Harden, while the Rockets will have elite defense from Robert Covington or P.J. Tucker on the Thunder’s best players at all times.

This is because the Thunder’s best players are wings, so while one of Covington or Tucker will likely be on Steven Adams at times, the other will be on one of the Thunder’s great wing players.

Chris Paul is still an amazing player, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is blossoming into something special.

But James Harden is one of the five best players in the league. Houston still has an MVP on their side.

There is a lot to consider in this matchup, and there will only be more to come as the series draws nearer.

In some ways, Houston fans should be optimistic about the Rockets’ odds against OKC without Russell Westbrook. In other ways, fans should be wary of the Thunder, not ruling out the possibility of losing to them.

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The presence of James Harden and the potential of his supporting cast makes winning this series doable. But it likely wouldn’t be easy even with Westbrook, so it will undoubtedly be even less so without him.